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Tickers in this Article: IGF, GII, PXR, XLU, FLR, TRP, NGG, PIE, VALE, MEGAX, KGICX
It is estimated that by 2050, the world's population will have bloomed from today's 7 billion to about 25 billion. With this population explosion, there is a great need to improve and create new infrastructure. From roads to water treatment and telecommunications, it all needs to be built to satisfy the upcoming long-term demand.

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Recently, the U.S. pledged $50 billion of Obama's "New Deal" to improving the aging infrastructure of the country. This is a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the $2.2 trillion that analysts estimate we'll need over the next five years. Add this to $26.5 billion pledged by Canada, $4.5 billion from Kenya, another $12 billion from Singapore and China's huge build up, and we can see that infrastructure is big business. With the global economy slowing, it may be time for long-term investors to buy into this theme. Taking a Broad Approach
Companies that dabble in everything from train tracks to electric cables will see a piece of the infrastructure pie. Not to mention the "cash flow" companies that will operate all of the toll roads. With all of that, you have the momentous task of picking the winners from the movement. Whenever there is a new investing trend, Wall Street is right there to fill the niche with new products. In the case of infrastructure, it's no different. While the movement has lost some steam, due to the slowing global economy, its long-term nature is certainly valid. To that end, Wall Street has some good broad choices for individual investors.

There are several actively managed mutual funds such US Global Megatrends (MEGAX), or the Kensington Global Infrastructure fund (KGICX), but due to their low expenses and flexibility, I prefer the many exchange-traded funds (ETFs) within this area. Each is weighted differently among the various companies and sectors that make up the infrastructure pie. (Learn more about ETFs in our tutorial Exchange-Traded Funds.)

Three Picks
The iShares S&P Global Infrastructure Index ETF (NYSE: IGF) is the behemoth in this field, with $247 million in assets under management. The index is truly a global representation of the infrastructure space, with only 22.5% of securities held coming from the U.S. This ETF also offers a good mixture of sectors, with 42% in utilities, 40% in industrials and 17% in energy companies. Top holdings include pipeline operator TransCanada (NYSE: TRP), super utility National Grid (NYSE: NGG) and Spain's toll road and infrastructure manager Abertis Infraestructuras SA. The fund has a modest yield and management expenses are moderate at 0.48%.

With almost 90% of its holdings in utilities, the SPDR FTSE/Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF (NYSE: GII), could almost seem like a proxy for that industry. Add this to the almost 40% weighting given to the U.S., and you can see how the fund has only garnered $62 million in assets compared with the iShares fund. The SPDR is a less volatile portfolio and does yield more than the iShares fund, currently at 3.85% (as of May 14), but due to its concentration, it's a poor broad representation of the infrastructure theme. Investors wanting utility exposure would be better suited in the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLU) and its rock bottom gross expense ratio of 0.21% versus the infrastructure SPDR's 0.59%.

The PowerShares branded Emerging Markets Infrastructure (NYSE: PXR) is certainly the most global of the exchange-traded products, as it gives the U.S. just a 9.2% weighting. PXR is designed to follow the S-Network Emerging Infrastructure Builders Index, which measures the overall performance of companies involved in infrastructure construction and development in emerging market countries. This includes engineering firms such as Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), basic materials companies such as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (NASDAQ: VALE), as well as construction equipment. There is also an interesting 1.84% weighting in PowerShares DWA Emerging Markets Technical Leaders ETF (NYSE: PIE). The PXR fund is the most expensive of the three, at 0.75%.

Bottom Line
With our planet's population growing exponentially, the need for clean water, energy, transportation and conveniences is growing at a fast speed. Infrastructure spending by governments worldwide is increasing long-term. By using the current global slowdown, long-term investors can profit from this trend by buying some good assets at low prices. The ETFs discussed offer broad diversification for this trend. Patient investors will be rewarded as nations abroad create new infrastructure, while at home we improve upon our aging systems. (Read Buy When There's Blood In The Streets, to learn how contrarian investors find value in the worst market conditions.)

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